Legal With Leah: Ag Districts

Recent nuisance lawsuits against contract hog farms in North Carolina are causing concern in the livestock industry. Juries have awarded millions of dollars to rural residents who complained about the smell, flies and increased truck traffic around the farms.

Producers in Ohio can protect themselves from nuisance lawsuits by enrolling their operation in an agricultural district, according to Ohio Farm Bureau Policy Counsel Leah Curtis.

“We have a right to farm law (in Ohio). We call it the ag district law here. You get the protection of a defense (against nuisance lawsuits). You also get some protection against eminent domain and water and sewer assessments,” Curtis said in a Legal with Leah podcast (listen below). “If you’re going to keep the land in ag, it’s a good idea to enroll it as an ag district.”

Agricultural districts at a glance:

•    What are the benefits of having an agricultural district designation?
You have a legal defense against nuisance lawsuits. Your agricultural operation is protected if it meets four criteria: it’s in an agricultural district, was established prior to the neighbors who are suing, the neighbors suing aren’t farmers and the farm-related activities don’t violate any other laws and are done in accordance with acceptable agricultural practices.
•    How do you become an agricultural district?
The qualifications are the same as for the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) program: at least 10 acres used for agricultural production or activities for three years and with an average yearly gross of at least $2,500 during that time period.
•    Where do you apply?
By filling out a form at your county auditor’s office. The designation is good for five years.

Listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting farmers and landowners.

Ohio Farm Bureau membership